Human Rights Watch released a report on Tuesday documenting Israeli repression of Palestinian civil rights in the West Bank. The report focuses on detentions and other restrictions enforced between 2015 and 2019.
Primarily authored by Omar Shakir, the now deported director of HRW for Israel and Palestine, the report calls on Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians and to treat them like it does its own citizens.
Referencing international law, and specifically the law of occupation, the report emphasizes the responsibilities of Israel as the occupying power to protect the occupied population’s core civil rights, including freedom of expression, association, and assembly. It notes that while the law permits some restrictions on speech and privacy as they pertain to national security, it also requires the occupying authority to restore public life.
The report highlights military orders 101 and 1651, issued by the Israeli army in 1967 and 2010 respectively, as the primary tools used to fine and/or detain individuals for up to ten years in prison. Both orders punish those charged with participating in peaceful assembly without permit, holding or waving flags or political symbols, publicly supporting organizations considered to be hostile, and attempting to influence public opinion in other ways. IDF soldiers often exploit the ambiguity of the orders’ language to employ violence and criminalize Palestinians’ exercise of civil rights.
The 92-page report was produced following HRW’s review of a large number of documents, including military orders, indictments, court decisions, photographic and video evidence, as well as 29 interviews with detainees, lawyers and affected family members, journalists, activists, and a political analyst. Several appendices are devoted to the authors’ correspondence with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT, the military administration that runs the occupied territories), Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency), the Israeli police, the office of the Prime Minister, the Israeli army spokesperson, as well as Facebook.
According to Facebook’s Content Restrictions Transparency Report, to which HRW was directed, Israel made 709 data requests and 981 Users/Accounts requests to the platform between January and June of this year. (Such requests were made to regulate social media content). Facebook produced data for 76% of the Israeli government’s requests. However, the Facebook report does not reveal whether these requests concerned content that originated in Israel or in the Occupied Territories.
In its conclusion, HRW called on official agencies of the Israeli government, as well as the international community, social media companies, and internet service providers, to desist from actions that encourage the violation of International Human Rights Law and deprive Palestinians in the West Bank of the protections they are due.
The report’s lead researcher, Omar Shakir, tweeted an explainer video summarizing key points from the report and highlighting the story of Farid al-Atrash, a Palestinian human rights lawyer who was arrested for participating in a peaceful protest.
“As a human, it is my right to express my opinion.” al-Atrash said. “It is my right to say no to injustice, but the occupation confronted me with repression.”
Shakir concluded the video by posing a question.
“How do you call for change when calling for change can land you in prison?”
The full HRW report, entitled “Born Without Civil Rights,” can be found here.
(Photo from HRW report page, credits to Andalou Agency/Getty Images)